Manchester Poverty Truth Commission

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You are cordially invited to the  Launch of Manchester Poverty Truth Commission
at the Comedy Store, 3 and 4, Arches, Deansgate Locks, Whitworth Street West, Manchester M1 5LH on Thursday, June 27, 2019 from 11.00am to 1.45pm

Poverty is no laughing matter

‘Nothing About Us Without Us is For Us.’

Sponsored by Councillor Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader, Manchester City Council and Dr Ruth Bromley, Chair, Manchester Health and Care Commissioning

The Poverty Truth Commission is a unique process is based on the conviction that we cannot hope to understand, let alone address, the causes and symptoms of poverty unless we involve the experts. In this context, the experts are those who have a direct experience of poverty; living with the reality day in and day out.

The approach is founded on the belief real progress towards overcoming poverty will be made when those who experience poverty are central to the development, delivery and evaluation of solutions. Unlike many other Commission processes, a key to its success is recruiting both commissioners with direct experience of poverty and commissioners in positions of influence locally and enabling them to have the opportunity to enter into real dialogue on the issues which come up.

The launch will include hearing from some of the 15 ‘grassroots’ members of the Commission, and an introduction to the 15 civic and business leaders who will join them as members of the Commission for the next 15 months.

Come prepared to hear some challenging and inspiring truths about poverty in Manchester.

To find out more about the Poverty Truth Commission ethos and approach, watch a short video produced by Leeds Poverty Truth Commission on the booking page.

Book here

The Manchester Poverty Truth Commission is hosted by Church Action on Poverty, sponsored by Councillor Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council and Dr Ruth Bromley, Chair of Manchester Health and Care Commissioning, and funded by Manchester Health and Care Commissioning, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Seedbed, Cheetham Hill Advice Centre and others.  However, the Commission itself it is being run independently and delivered by a team of freelance facilitators.

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A society divided by poverty

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By Ivan Lewis MP

The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated recently,

“I reject the idea that there are vast numbers of people facing dire poverty in this country. I don’t accept the UN rapporteur’s report at all. I think that’s a nonsense. Look around you; that’s not what we see in this country.”

In the context of poverty, we sadly do not live in one society, one nation or even one city region, we are deeply divided. A society where the world of work and social networks increasingly means people on different levels of income have little or no contact. This is socially regressive.

One of the great virtues of the best Children’s Centres are that they bring together parents of all social classes. This is mutually beneficial for the children but also for adult relationships and community cohesion. However, the cuts to early years provision and the absence of a meaningful child poverty strategy undermine any efforts to break the cycle of Intergenerational poverty which blights too many families.

The impact of austerity has fallen disproportionately on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Women, ethnic minorities, children, single parents, asylum seekers and people with disabilities have suffered the most.

Since 2010, the Government has made more than £30billion in cuts to welfare, housing and social payments. Social and living standards have not improved and for too many have worsened since the global economic crash of 2008.

Every day we see the impact of the breakdown of much of our social fabric in the form of people sleeping rough on our streets. It is hard to celebrate the growth exemplified by the cranes in the skies of our major cities when down below too many people are huddled in doorways and under archways seeking shelter and sanctuary.

The Child Poverty Action Group has stated that an additional 300,000 children will be living in poverty by the time universal credit has been fully implemented in 2023-2024. The two-child policy is not compatible with our national commitment towards children. We owe a duty of care to all children, not just the first two, to enable families to foster healthy environments in which they can flourish.

Our social security system is intended to function as a safety net to support and assist people through situations such as low-pay, sickness, long term disability and unemployment. Instead, too often it has become a source of despair and misery with the most vulnerable in society beholden to the seemingly arbitrary rules which dictate how much universal credit one is entitled too.

A new Prime Minister will rightly be expected to resolve the Brexit stalemate. But alongside this, he or she must recognise the economic and social imperative to reduce levels of poverty which help to fuel (division) in our fractured society. The stark division in our country between Remainers and Leavers is corrosive. But so are levels of poverty which consign too many of our fellow citizens to poor life chances and a poor quality of life. It is a human tragedy for those trapped in this cycle of despair, but it is also undermining our economy in a world where human capital is at a premium.

This is in our country, all around us, and it isn’t right.

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Healthy Start vouchers

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Thousands of women and children miss out on healthy food scheme in 2018
Press release issued by Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming

Charities and health groups have warned Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock that low-income women and children in over 130,000 households are missing out on £28.6m of free fruit, vegetables and milk due to poor promotion of the Healthy Start voucher scheme. Of this, £4 million would have gone to families in the North West, a huge blow to the budgets of those who need it most.

The coalition of 26 charities and health bodies includes Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming, the Royal Society for Public Health, Royal College of Midwives and the Trussell Trust. They called on the Government to boost promotion of the Healthy Start voucher scheme, which can be worth up to £900 per child over the first four years of life.

The vouchers adds at least £3.10 to a family shop per child each week and over the first four years of a child’s life this is equivalent to 1,090 pints of milk, 1,100 apples, 218kg of carrots and 143kg of peas.

Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive, Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming, said “The Government is missing a trick. This money has been set aside to support low income and young families, but the Healthy Start voucher scheme for fruit, vegetables and milk is not being properly managed or promoted. Over 4 million children are living in households who sometimes run out of money for essentials such as food – these vouchers can help keep good food on the table.”

Shirley Cramer, CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Public Health, said “Having access to nutritious food required for healthy development is a right of every child. We know that healthy food is three times more expensive than unhealthy food; the scheme can help those at the greatest disadvantage in the most deprived areas.”

However in 2018, pregnant women and children missed out on an estimated £28.6 million worth of vouchers in England and Wales, representing a missed opportunity by government to help families afford to heed their young families and also to encourage healthy eating habits that could have lifelong benefits.

An open letter calls on the Government to fund a programme to ensure that midwives, health visitors, GPs and other relevant staff in health, social care and early years settings actively help all eligible pregnant women and new parents claim their Heathy Start vouchers. They suggest that this programme could be funded from the estimated £28.6 million of Healthy Start vouchers that went unclaimed last year.

The letter also asks the Government to confirm the date for a consultation on Healthy Start, which was committed to by the Department of Health and Social Care last June in Chapter 2 of Childhood Obesity: a plan for action.

Sustain logo - healthy start vouchers article for GM Poverty ActionThe Sustain food and farming alliance, which coordinated the open letter, is also encouraging people to write to their MP about Healthy Start to make sure all children have access to fresh fruit and vegetables for a healthy start in life.

Average take-up of the vouchers in England and Wales was only 64% in 2018, or
approximately 135,000 households missing out, with no government funds dedicated to supporting local health service providers to promote the scheme. A map of current take-up rates in England and Wales is publicly available and updated monthly by the Department of Health.


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Kellogg’s double breakfast club grants

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In March Kellogg’s pledged to support the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance in several ways, including increased their support for breakfast clubs across the city region. Now they have published a report showing the scale of hunger in the classroom, and committed more resources across the country. This is part of an expansion of their corporate responsibility work and impact, Kellogg’s Better Days, which seeks to address the interconnected issues of food security, climate and wellbeing.

One in nine children missing six hours of learning each week through hunger in the classroom

One in nine children goes to school with an empty tummy and the effect of this is a loss of education.

Research by Kellogg’s, with 4,000 children and 950 teachers suggests that the impact of hunger in the classroom is huge with children losing six hours of learning each week. if they arrive at school hungry.  That’s the equivalent of three weeks of learning time each term.

A fifth of teachers say that a hungry child takes up too much of their time and two thirds (67%) claim they are unable to learn. Children agree it impacts their education with half of breakfast skippers saying they can’t concentrate in the morning.

Older children are even more likely to start the day without anything to eat, with one in six secondary schoolchildren not having breakfast and girls are the worst culprits for skipping breakfast before school, especially in high schools with nearly a fifth not eating in the morning.

For those children at schools in areas of high deprivation a third said they noticed a child at their school was hungry and gave them some of their food to eat.

Breakfast clubs Kelloggs for GM Poverty Action
But, one in seven teachers warn that recent changes in school funding have negatively impacted their breakfast club provision. It’s important these clubs continue to run as the benefit of them is proven with a third of teachers saying that pupils who attend a breakfast club are keen and ready to learn.

Peter Cansell, National Association Primary Education said: “It’s shocking that in 2019 there are still nearly 800,000 children starting the school day on an empty tummy. This is leading to a shortfall in critical learning time.

“This research even shows that those children that eat breakfast are happier, probably because they have the energy and enthusiasm to enjoy the school day. The benefits of pre-school clubs are proven, they ensure that children go into the classroom with the ability to concentrate.”

For those that are eating in the morning there has been an increase in older children having their breakfast on the go, grabbing it on the way to school and more children are eating continental breakfast foods with twice as many starting the day with pancakes and croissants.

Today, Kellogg’s – a long standing supporter of Breakfast Clubs –  announced it is doubling the number of grants it offers school breakfast clubs to support one in four schools in the poorest parts of the UK.

Oli Morton, Kellogg’s managing director said: “We believe every child should have the best start to their day and our latest study shows the importance of a good breakfast and that too many children are still going to school without the vital fuel that they need to help them learn”.

“This shows that the work that we and our partners carry out, as part of our Breakfast Club programme, is as important as ever. That’s why today we will be doubling our commitment to breakfast clubs in 2019 to reach the most vulnerable parts of the country as they play a vital role in giving a child the best start to their day.”

Schools can apply to join the Kellogg’s Breakfast Club network by emailing


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Funding for playschemes

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The Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action Plan, which we launched in March, calls for concerted action to provide food with activities for children and young people during school holidays. Manchester Holiday Buzz is a great example of this, involving businesses, charities, the council and housing associations.

Manchester Holiday Buzz Playscheme Fund 2019-2020
Young Manchester is passionate about giving children and young people the opportunity to play. We know that financially disadvantaged children can experience hunger in the holidays and a holiday experience gap. Open access playschemes are one way for children to make new friends, stay active and access healthy food during the school holidays.  Playschemes offer supervised play during school holidays. Most schemes are free of charge, but some may ask for a small donation eg 50p per session.

Funding is available for the delivery of open access holiday playschemes for children and young people aged 5 – 14 years.  Closing date for applications: 5pm Friday June 14th 2019. This is for voluntary and community sector organisations working with children and young people and education providers partnering with the VCSE sector.  Organisations must be based in Manchester and/or mainly working with Manchester residents

For more information, the fund prospectus, application guidance and an application form please go to the website


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GM Good Employment Charter

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Making employment work for everyone
by Ian McArthur, Business Growth Hub

For many people, modern work isn’t working. Record high employment figures conceal major deficiencies in the quality of work people are doing.

In an increasingly insecure UK labour market, poverty rates have risen for every type of working family and one in eight workers nationally is now in poverty.

The Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review, launched earlier this year, found that wages have fallen by 6.6% in real terms between 2006 and 2016 for the average worker in the city-region, in a labour market which has seen a rise in unstable and low paid work.

This can’t be right. We need to be offering employees secure, fulfilling and well-paid work that prevents them from falling into poverty in the first place, and that means that our businesses and third sector organisations can grow and succeed based on the skills and engagement of their staff.

That’s why in Greater Manchester we’re doing things differently, working with employers and employees in all sectors, trade unions, representative organisations and other key stakeholders to develop a Good Employment Charter.

Through two consultations and a broader co-design process involving GMCVO and others, including GMPA, we’ve developed a list of seven employment characteristics which define good employment:

Security of work
Flexible work
Payment of a real living wage
A productive and healthy workplace
Excellent people management
Excellent recruitment practices and progression
Workplace engagement and voice

Taking the Charter forward into implementation we want to support employers on a journey towards best practice in each of these fields, demonstrating the positive impact that better employment standards can have on employee welfare and organisational performance alike. The Charter has been developed with a tiered approach to help support and encourage employers to share excellent practice, access support to progress to higher standards, and help them become more successful as a result.

The Charter model has now been agreed by the Combined Authority and, working with partners, we are beginning the process of putting the Charter into action. Already, it has been highlighted by the recent Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review as an important element in increasing economic growth and pay in the city-region.

The Charter Supporters’ Network will be launched in July and employers from across the private, public and community and voluntary sectors will be able to sign up then and access a number of resources and networks to help drive up employment standards. Also in July, a representative pilot group of employers from across Greater Manchester will work with the Charter Implementation Unit (hosted by the Growth Company), on developing membership standards appropriate for employers of various sizes across all sectors. Third sector employers who would like more information on the Charter or would like to take part in the pilot process should contact Ian MacArthur


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North West Hardship Hub

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New service puts debt support at your fingertips
introducing the North West Hardship Hub

Debt advisors across the North West are being encouraged to register for a new online resource putting hundreds of support schemes at their fingertips.

‘The North West Hardship Hub’ brings together financial assistance schemes from across the public and private sector to help the money advice community quickly and easily pinpoint the right support for people who are struggling with their household bills.

Supported by regional water company United Utilities and developed in conjunction with the money advice community, the Hub now contains information on more than 500 schemes from 300 organisations covering sectors such as electricity, gas, telecoms, water, local authorities and housing associations.

Jane Haymes, affordability manager at United Utilities said:  “The idea behind the Hardship Hub came about after we organised an affordability conference in Liverpool back in 2018. Debt advisors who attended the conference said what they really needed was a facility to help them quickly find debt support schemes from all the different providers across the North West without having to trawl all the different companies’ websites.

“A year later, with the support of the debt advisor community, the Hardship Hub was launched and it’s been a great success. The site now contains information on hundreds of schemes and is continuing to grow.”

Once registered, debt advisors can easily search to find what schemes are available in postcode areas so their clients get the support they need.

Said Jane: “The Hub has made it incredibly easy for debt advisors to find the right schemes for their clients. What’s really useful about the site is that the advisors can rate each scheme so that the providers can see whether their scheme is delivering the support it should be. I’d encourage all debt advisors from the North West to give it a go.”

Registration for the Hardship Hub is free, visit the website.


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Councils must tackle in-work poverty

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By Marcus Johns, IPPR

One in every three children in Greater Manchester lives below the poverty line, after housing costs, and this continues to rise. These new figures from End Child Poverty are shocking.

While cuts and reforms to benefits are largely to blame, low wages, insecure work, and poor-quality jobs have also had a significant impact. In 2018, the TUC found the number of children nationally growing up in poverty who live in working households is growing – it’s currently around 3.1 million.

The relationship between high levels of employment and lower poverty has been widely assumed. But, in the era of record high employment rates – currently 74% in Greater Manchester – alongside increasing levels of poverty, this view appears defunct.

At IPPR North, we recently published ‘Decent Work: Harnessing the power of local government’, a report highlighting the North’s job quality crisis and some of the things northern local authorities are doing to mitigate it.

This crisis sees 1 in 4 northern workers paid less than the Real Living Wage of £9 per hour, the amount needed to just get by. In Greater Manchester, that equates to 270,000 people. The picture is even worse for women: 1 in 3 are paid below the living wage in the North. This crisis is heightening: average weekly pay has fallen £21 per week in real terms since the financial crisis. This puts pressure on household budgets, leading to parents skipping meals to provide food for their children and harming wellbeing with the constant threat of slipping into uncontrollable debt or being unable to pay rent.

To tackle this crisis, we need to focus on decent work. Decent work means secure and reliable hours, training and progression opportunities, a voice at work and fair and decent pay. So, we are calling for the North to become a ‘Living Wage Region’ by 2025 – where everyone is paid at least the living wage – and for the creation of a Northern Employment Charter, that brings together the region’s local employment charters to a shared minimum standard of work. Our report outlines a roadmap to get there, calling on local government to use all levers at their disposal.

Many authorities are already combating low pay and poor-quality work. Despite the headwinds of a decade of austerity, councils are overcoming financial and legal barriers—both real and perceived—to improve pay and conditions for staff, workers in their supply chain, and in their local economies. Councils like Manchester and Salford are leading the way in these efforts.

But what more can be done in Greater Manchester?

All boroughs in Greater Manchester need to work together to embed decent work – our report outlines 27 practical recommendations for councils to start implementing both internally and in their suppliers’ workforces. This is accompanied by our 10-point guide for Councillors on decent work in commissioning and procurement.

We know Greater Manchester’s employment charter has excellent potential – it needs to be implemented at pace and used by employers across the city region. It can send a clear message: Greater Manchester won’t accept less than decent work for all citizens.

We also know Greater Manchester has many anchor institutions, universities, colleges, hospitals whose geography is “sticky”: they can’t or are very unlikely to ever leave Greater Manchester. They can be supported to adopt decent work and pay living wages. They are also big customers, who can throw their institutional weight behind decent work by demanding it of their suppliers.

Marcus Johns article for GM Poverty Action

Marcus Johns, IPPR North

But crucially, central government must step up. The minimum wage should be raised to at least the real living wage, employment rights should be strengthened and enforcement improved. Local government needs fair and proper funding to deliver decent work indefinitely.

We have a job quality crisis largely because of political choices central government has made: the choice to allow the number on zero hours contracts to rise and real pay to fall. But local government has a choice to do what it can do locally, right now.

Without decent work, working people – and their children – across Greater Manchester, and across the North, will continue to be affected. Local government here in Greater Manchester and across the North must act now.

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Cracking Good Food collection

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Any spare mugs, saucepans, trowels, watering cans?

As part of the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action Plan launched in March 2019, Cracking Good Food have set up a sponsorship package to facilitate some offers of support through their organisation.  Find out more here

They have also put out a call for all unwanted cooking and growing equipment in order to furnish the community groups and hostels that they are working in with the tools that are needed.  Collected items can also be shared out among families and individuals moving on from temporary accommodation.

Through the sponsorship opportunities, Apex Storage have donated 4 secure storage units where kitchen and garden items donated by everyone can be collected before being redistributed across the city region.   The units are in Cheadle, Ardwick, Radcliffe and near Sport City. Full addresses and drop off instructions here. Please contact Tracey at Cracking Good Food to arrange delivery.

They are looking for: mugs, plates in all sizes, cutlery, soup and cereal bowls, aprons, baking trays, chopping boards, saucepans, utensils, sieves, graters, colanders and storage including airtight food containers.  Also most welcome would be small electrical appliances such as blenders, kettles, toasters, microwaves and slow cookers. Larger white goods, such as fridges, freezers, dishwashers and cookers can also be redistributed.

For the ‘grow your own’ projects they need: growing containers, trowels, forks, spades, gardening gloves, composting soil, rakes, wheelbarrows, canes, garden twine and string, watering cans and hoses and especially seeds, small fruit bushes and salad plants.

So do pass on that collection of odd dinner plates, or those extra mugs you don’t need, the stack of garden tubs that you no longer want to pot up and those lettuce seeds someone gave you that you just know you’ll never sow!

If you would like to get more involved please check out the Action Plan to see how you could contribute.

Cracking Good Food Collection for GM Poverty Action

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Inspiring Communities Together

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Food Matters

Over the past year Inspiring Communities Together in partnership with Age UK Salford, Salford Royal and Salford City Council Public Health Team and other community venues have tested a variety of approaches to try and address community food-related issues.

The approach developed delivered a programme of activities across the life course of start well, live well and age well.

Whilst the test model developed by this partnership came before the launch the GM Food Poverty Action Plan they have been able to demonstrate that their approach has:

  • provided more people with knowledge and skills to make healthy food choices through a variety of tools;
  • the joined-up approach has brought together a variety of partners and funding to test a different approach to
    addressing food poverty;
  • more people are now making healthy food choices from across the life course;
  • the programme of activity has supported friendships to grow within neighbourhoods.

To develop and deliver this approach has required not only the commitment of the partnership but also access to funding to support management and co-ordination of the model.

For 2019-20 Inspiring Communities Together have made a commitment to:

  • carry on the work testing a place-based approach to addressing food poverty using the GM Food Poverty Action Plan;
  • build on the learning developed during this period of work to develop a neighbourhood model which can be
    replicated in other neighbourhoods;
  • use the learning that has already taken place to identify funding sources which can provide the resources needed.

Their full report Food Matters: A Neighbourhood Approach, Lessons Learnt April 2018 – March 2019 is available here


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